How IT Can Stay in the Game Through an Economic Downturn

Depending on what you read and who you talk to, an economic downturn or outright recession may be in the works. Growth has slowed, trade is uncertain, and economic cycles inevitably cycle. What does this mean for IT organizations? And how can IT leaders help the enterprise thrive through challenging economic conditions?

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An IT Leader’s Empathy Exercise Bootcamp

Co-authored by Chris Kondracki and ChiChi Lu.

Understanding and empathizing with others helps IT leaders navigate complex business environments. Empathy enables us to better understand a situation, relate to other people, and view issues from different angles.

Here’s why it works, and how to put it in practice.

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What Are Your CFO Counterparts Learning? A Recap of the 2019 CFO Leadership Conference

The CFO Leadership Council recently hosted its 9th annual national conference in Boston. Andrey Alekseyev and I were fortunate enough to be in attendance for the first time. Over 400 senior financial executives gathered in Boston, MA for two days to discuss and dig deep into the complexities of being a modern CFO. In case you missed it, we took notes. Below are our key takeaways and summaries of a few memorable sessions.

As you would expect, CFOs are focused on the staples of financial success—namely, ROI and outcomes. But the modern CFO is also concerned with far more than just the finance function of their organization. Today’s CFOs are invested in digital transformation and what technology can do for their business across the entire organization. In a way, this strategic shift has revolutionized the role of forward-looking CFO.

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Stuck with a Bad PM Tool? Here’s What to Do

Let’s say you’re planning to repaint your living room this weekend. You shop for supplies online: drop cloths, painter’s tape, and brushes. Alexa, innocently, puts scrub brushes in your cart instead of paint brushes. The delivery arrives the next day. Do you have the tools you need to get the job done? The scrub brush has a handle and bristles! The bristles can be dipped into the paint! Will it require more work to create the desired outcome with a scrub brush rather than a paint brush? My guess is, no matter what, it’s not going to be pretty.

It’s not that the scrub brush is a bad product. On the contrary, it’s probably the highest rated scrub brush on the web. The issue is that you need a paint brush specifically designed to apply paint evenly and precisely. You need the right tool for the job.

Flash forward to the work week: How often are we using the wrong tool for a job?

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Being a Leader in a Non-Leadership Role

The presence of “manager” or “director” in your title does not make you a leader. Being a leader is not about officially holding the power to make a decision, supervising others while they do the grunt work, or making the most money. Leadership is a skill, not a role. Leadership is the ability to connect with those around you and shepherd a team toward a successful outcome, to see the bigger picture, and to do what’s right—not what’s easy. You don’t need a specific title to do that.

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Traditional vs Transformational: Breaking down the differences between IT leadership archetypes

As a company embarks on a journey of digital transformation and immense change, the expectations of IT leaders change as well. Two general archetypes have emerged, but in reality, individuals fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two extremes. Both archetypes can be extraordinarily valuable in the right situation. Each can also be incredibly ineffective when placed in the wrong context.

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Avoid These 3 Traps When Intervening On Team Performance

How is it that some people can inspire us to strive for greatness while others turn us off?

For me, one of those amazing leaders was my high school biology teacher, Mr. Kaziersky. He knew how to engage, inspire, and motivate his students to achieve outstanding results. Our classes consistently outperformed our peers on AP exams and SATs. What was so remarkable was that he didn’t always have the best or brightest students. There was something about his approach and the learning environment he created that enabled us to thrive.

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Making Empowerment Stick

Let me know if this sounds familiar: You talk about empowerment with your staff, at skip levels, and at town hall meetings. It’s a concept you reinforce over and over again within your organization. And yet you still observe teams asking for permission in situations where you want them to make decisions and drive actions. You still find yourself as the bottleneck, giving tactical approvals on topics you don’t feel require your input.

There’s a good chance you’re the reason a culture of empowerment hasn’t taken hold.

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IT Leaders Are Not Quarterbacks

Business leaders are often compared to quarterbacks. A quarterback huddles up with the team before every play so players understand how to execute in an organized fashion. This comparison may work for some team leaders, but it no longer applies to IT.

Why? Because more and more IT functions are being outsourced: data centers, applications, development, help desk, and more. When your team is so decentralized, and often working around the globe, it is hard to huddle before every play.

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A + B = X Factor: The Formula for Improving IT Performance

How is it that high-performing teams work so well? Is it something innate? Is it luck? Or is there a repeatable formula that results in outstanding team performance? The spoiler is in the title of this post! Leaders can produce superior results by consciously managing team dynamics to create ideal environmental factors for a team’s unique demands.

It’s all about giving teams what they need to thrive. Here is the model we use to determine what a given team needs to succeed. 

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